How Old Is Too Old For An Idea?

If you follow me, you know I’m devoted to participating in Science Fiction/Fantasy Saturday. This past weekend, I included a snippet from a book I started writing twenty-five years ago. One of the authors who commented on the snippet pointed out that he wouldn’t develop an idea that was twenty-five years-old. I have to say the comment got in my head and won’t leave me alone.

How old is too old for an idea?

I have many completed novels that for one reason or another never got published. I think cyberpunk was all the rage at the time. One is a romantic thriller, contemporary in the early 90’s, and very reliant on the prevalent technology of the time:  pay phones, floppy disks, slow modems, fax machines, 35mm photography negatives, and that’s just off the top of my head. Drawn from my experiences writing for the Tampa Tribune newspaper at the time, the story itself is pretty good. It’s paced well. The characters are well developed. I could publish today… except for the fact that the dated technology is integral to the plot. Perhaps I’ll publish it at some point as a period piece.

My  point is, that it’s an idea I wouldn’t make a priority out of developing due to its dated content. But the science fiction romance I posted on Saturday is another story entirely. Drawing inspiration from Terminator, Flash Gordon, and Total Recall, it was an idea I’d toyed with, off and on, since 1987 before it got archived with The Black Wing Chronicles in 2002. For that matter, I first conceived of The Black Wing Chronicles in 1980. Sovran’s Pawn only published this year. That’s a thirty-two year-old concept that got developed.

If a story is compelling and interesting to the writer, shouldn’t it see the light of day? A good premise is timeless and resonates. Sure, Star Wars was exactly what sf fans everywhere needed at the time. Most sf of the period had become painfully socially conscious, with accusatory messages of total annihilation and the inherent evil of humankind. Star Wars was a breath of fresh air — a lighthearted adventure. It was the Hero’s Journey. Would it be successful if released for the first time today? If you take into account how very groundbreaking it was in special effects technology, I believe it would be. No one had seen anything quite like it. Star Wars made science fiction fun again, taking it out of the hands of the ivory tower bunch and putting back into the hands of adventurers, pirates, cowboys and damsels in distress. Would it be a blockbuster? I don’t know, but if the cult success of Joss Whedon’s Firefly can be used as a measure, Star Wars would find a devoted audience.

How old is too old for an idea?

I suppose that for every writer, that’s a personal decision. For myself, I believe that good ideas are timeless. As far as The Lost Domina is concerned, I’ll let YOU decide. Here is the blurb. Tell me what you think.

***

Riding high on the sale of her first novel, science fiction author Analise Trujold tries to rescue her failing marriage with a trip to the countryside with her husband to watch a meteor shower. A close encounter with an alien hit squad who murders her husband, and the sudden appearance of Admiral Faran Hagon, the hero in her novel, ensnare Analise in a hotbed of interstellar intrigue. Characters from her book are more real than she ever could have believed and her mundane life on Earth has been nothing more than implanted memories to keep her safe during her exile.

The Universal Congolmeration of Systems is under attack from within.  As the Lost Domina, Ana is the only one who can hold it together. But with her memories suspect, she’s not sure who she can trust. Even though she’s drawn to Faran, she can’t help but wonder if he isn’t somehow angling to rule in her stead. If she hopes to survive, Ana must rely on her wits and creativity to uncover the truth behind the fiction.

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9 thoughts on “How Old Is Too Old For An Idea?

  1. Since your story deals with an imaginary future not the 1980s, I don’t see what the problem would be. True, you are a better writer now than you would have been years ago, but those tweaks and fixes can be taken care of in in editing. Run it by a beta when you’re ready.

    1. That’s one reason I love working with my old first drafts. I’m much better than I used to be, and the ideas seem fresh and exciting to me all over again. Anything I write will be run by a beta first.

    2. ShawnVW

      Actually, the story seems to be the “present day”, not the future, but that makes the concept nearly universal. On the other hand, the “meteor shower hiding alien spacecraft” has been done kind of a lot (I just saw the movie “Aliens in the Attic”).

      PS: Don’t leak the part about implanted memories. Let the blurb reader wonder how Analise’s characters could turn out to be real.

  2. Some things would probably only have succeeded at the time they were produced. Alf, Star Wars, Krull. I love them over and over but they probably wouldn’t work if first produced today. But that doesn’t mean an “old” idea won’t work. The only way you can find out is to work with it. See where it goes.

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